We sat down with Helio Monteiro, Director of VDC at Venture General Contracting and spoke to him about digital construction strategies at Venture, and their experience with adopting cmBuilder for their site utilization planning requirements. While discussing cmBuilder, he explained how the platform brings about a different approach to their workflow and can also help tackle site logistics, safety and traffic control in the various phases of planning, with increased collaboration with the project teams.
Q: Tell us a little bit about Venture General Contracting and your role in the company.
A: Venture is a known GC based out of Seattle. The typical project types we build are multi-family, tenant improvement and commercial. Venture has pushed the use of BIM and technology (not typical to multi-family development) on our projects for two main reasons:
- To save the client time and money; and
- To make the job sites more fun for the people working on them.
Our core BIM team does the heavy lifting using the technology platforms and provides others with viewers or documents to utilize out in the field. As far as technology goes, we'll use what is best for our teams to give us the best results – results that are accurate, quantifiable and repeatable. So, we're always testing new tools and strategies. We take a project-based planning approach to the technology implemented. Not all technology and tools will work for every project.
Q: How do you educate yourself and keep up to date with new tech in construction?
A: I go to conferences, check LinkedIn, see what the competitors are utilizing, and also make sure that I've networked with other VDC and BIM engineers in the area. I find out the pitfalls and benefits that they're seeing and just talk it through with them. And everybody kind of walks away from the conversation with a little bit more than they knew before. I also get emails and messages on LinkedIn asking to try out something new. At Venture, we use a “from-the-field” approach: see what the heartache on the field side is and work backwards to figure out what tools are going to best assist those team members.
Q: How did you come across cmBuilder? And what were your first thoughts when you saw what cmBuilder could do?
A: I think you guys reached out to me. I saw the demo of the platform and my first thought was that it could bring a different approach to my workflow. I can use cmBuilder to do what I currently use three separate platforms to do. With cmBuilder I have to build it only once and the by-products that I've made can be diverted into different uses – 2D plan, 3D model walkthrough, and 4D schedule visualization whereas if I were to do that before, I would definitely need to use separate programs for each.
Q: How long did it take for you to navigate through cmBuilder and get the hang of it?
A: Not that long really. I’m kind of tech savvy just because it’s my job and we tell everybody who wants us to test their platform that we're going to try to break it. If we can’t then it’s good to go! For cmBuilder, getting all the tools figured out was easy. What took me a little bit longer was the workflow - there are a couple of steps that if you do it in a specific order, you get better results and don't have to backtrack. Once I got that figured out, it was moving pretty quickly.
Q: How about for others in your team?
A: For me, I've used plenty of programs & I eventually figure it out - but it is not the case with everyone. With cmBuilder, I think if someone was new and just getting started on the platform, they'd be able to pick it up easily. Any pain points that they might find, the resources are there & the cmBuilder team is there and they respond pretty quickly. So, I feel comfortable putting someone on cmBuilder and having them be self-paced and train themselves with little to no handholding from me. Again, the best process is if my team does the heavy lifting and then we share the end product with those in the field that can view it easily and apply their experience and knowledge to what they are looking at.
Q: Tell us some aspects of the platform or features that really stood out for you while you were working on a project using cmBuilder.
A: What stands out for me is the increased ability to collaborate & involve the project teams. On cmBuilder, I can just sit and work through something as simple as where the crane setup is going to be and how far I can swing the crane and show it to a superintendent who can then make a decision on his plan that he's going to implement out in the field. Because they are a part of the process, there’s no rework on the basis of how each of us think it should be done. With the combination of the schedule they provided, the equipment they would have onsite, where they wanted to set it up, I was able to put a 4D simulation together and then we were able to make decisions based on what they were seeing visually. It all it goes back to that field aspect I mentioned - everything that I do has to tie into the field somehow and be useful to them.
Q: Any specific example from a project that you were working on?
A: On a job that we were doing for the Seattle Preparatory School, we found that if we install steel without leaving specific areas out, we’re going to bury ourselves and not be able to install the rated walls behind it against the existing building. For me as a VDC guy, I see it, run my collisions and move on. But when you put a superintendent or an estimator in that room and show them the visuals, they're going to give you different information with regards to how the install and build is going to go. So, you further that planning phase and that pre-con phase until you make it effortless out in the field.
Q: Did you do this project entirely on cmBuilder or were there other programs involved?
A: When I commit, I am all in. So, it was all cmBuilder - a hundred percent, I didn't use any of the other platforms other than exporting the models to put into cmBuilder.
Q: Awesome! Other than reducing the number of programs to just one, how else has your site utilization planning process changed?
A: For our process it’s just greater team involvement. If I'm doing something in a program that nobody else can access, they have to wait until I'm done before they make their comments. But on cmBuilder, I can share at different points and they can feed back information and I can make changes before the end product is done. And it saves a little bit more time.
Q: So how do you share your plan with the team?
A: We use the share function on cmBuilder - I send them the link and tell them to drive! I’ve already gotten some good comments from the superintendent who's opened it up and flown through. It’s just what we want- we want to do the heavy lifting, so they can just take the tool, run with it and use it for their needs.
Q: What are some features of cmBuilder that you think are really important or make a difference to your planning process?
A: I think the MarkUps feature is really important -even if I was just sharing my plans internally, there are people who may not know construction. Especially when we are sending a model out to owners and the simulation starts populating camera angles and callouts – these notes and tags make it so much easier to understand what’s going on.
I also use the resource catalog to place equipment on every milestone - it adds more context to the visual. I could just put holes in the ground and note it as piles. If I just put piles in the ground and they're like, okay, pile activity started. But when I add a pile equipment vehicle next to it, you start thinking - it's a tight space, how do I get that equipment back there? What is going to be in that equipment's way? And when it swings or when the arm comes back down, is it going to hit anything? And just like that, we're talking not just site logistics but also safety!
Q: Would you be okay to touch a little bit more on using cmBuilder for figuring out safety aspects in your project?
A: Sure. One example would be on a project that I'm working on now. It’s on a very steep slope and there're some decks that cantilever out. The superintendent thought that we would need a delineation for those cantilever decks on 3 sides but when we pulled up the model on cmBuilder, we realized that it would be safing off more than those three sides. The fact that we could flip through the schedule to show what the gaps in our plan were, gave us a deeper understanding of where we needed delineation for safety. The other example would be something as simple as hole covers. It goes back to what we call the one-model mentality– where as much as we can, we try to keep everything in one model so all the information is coming from one source. Tying it back to safety, from our model when we do a concrete lift drawing, we know where the openings are going to be because we modeled them in and we confirmed them with the subcontractors. As I push it to cmBuilder when I see a block out I just add a hole cover over it.
Here's a quick look at Venture's site utilization plan for their Seattle Preparatory School project:
Want to try cmBuilder out for yourself? You can start a free trial on cmBuilder.io today! You can also schedule a customized demo with a product expert.